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(Lack of) Appreciation for the Complexities

By tt stern-enzi · January 16th, 2013 · The Alternative
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I swear there are days when it would be best to turn off the television, stay away from computers, the Internet and smartphones, maybe just remain in bed with the covers firmly clasped over my head to silence the ignorant noise spewing out of the mouths (and from the furiously tweeting thumbs) of politicians, commentators and lobbyists. 

It might be worth giving up a paycheck since, due to this forum, I’m among the noisemakers, although I like to think that, at the very least, I make an effort to be careful with the thoughts and ideas I present to CityBeat’s readers. I appreciate the responsibility entrusted to me.

If only every other talking head subscribed to similar ideals, then maybe I wouldn’t want to bury my head in the sand and dream, dream, dream my life away. 

What, pray tell, you’re likely asking, has got your panties in a bunch?

Comments, a few days ago, from “Gun Appreciation Day” chairman Larry Ward on CNN. Ward, as part of a segment highlighting yet another angle on the latest example of national gridlock — gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre — dared to evoke the name of Dr. Martin Luther King in support of the NRA’s stance on guns and Second Amendment rights. With earnest sincerity, Ward claimed, “I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African-Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”

The comments triggered a rapid (albeit brief) reply from Maria Roach of United for Change USA, who, as a co-panelist, labeled the notion a “ridiculous” example of “theater” in the gun debate, which it was, but buried in its absurdity is a stark and startling degree of complexity.

On its face, the stupidity of linking slavery into the discussion would seemingly nullify even the most logical assertions that could follow as little more than an accidental brain fart.

Roach pointed out that slaves, like guns, were property, so there was never any consideration for granting gun rights to slaves (which would be akin to conferring civil rights to a gun or treating a corporation like an individual). That Ward, as the chairman of such a national movement, would propose such an illogical line of reasoning calls into question the rank and file members who backed him in the first place.

But breaking down the first part of his statement exposes the shrewd (crazy like a fox) element in his claim. Although liberals are quick to launch into Ward due to King’s adherence to non-violence, Dr. King did actually support the rights of citizens to bear arms in their own defense (going so far as to apply for a gun license during the 1950s). 

Like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, King understood the harsh realities of the times, especially in the Deep South where black folks were likely to be subjected to mobs of white people with harmful intent. In those cases, when an individual or a family could be easily outnumbered and overwhelmed, a legally obtained firearm might be the only thing standing between them and an angry lynch mob.

Gun laws, at the time, severely limited options for black folks to purchase guns, so yes, Dr. King spoke out against such draconian laws, but it should be perfectly clear that Dr. King, if he were alive today, would take issue with large magazine clips of armor-piercing bullets aimed at schoolchildren or patrons in movie theaters or citizens gathering to speak with members of Congress.

There is a real sense of theatrics at play in our national debate. It is right out of the theater of the absurd, although sadly, it lacks wit or base-level common sense. Sometimes, as the arguments ricochet from one inane target to the next, I try to imagine what the world would look like if a group of us broke off, in search of a new land (or planet) where we could fashion a new republic. Would it be more enlightened than our current system?

Try as I might, I can’t muster up any hope that we would be able to start from scratch and come up with anything better than what we’ve got, in large part because we prove each and every day of our 24-hour news cycle that we’re simply not smart or nuanced enough to reflect upon the complexities of an ever-evolving world. 

We’ve lost our ability to interpret or make sense of the differences between our personal/ideological nightmares and reality.



CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: letters@citybeat.com



 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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